DESPITE the uncertainty surrounding the Philippine men’s football team on the heels of Michael Weiss’ departure as coach of the Azkals, its most popular player is upbeat for what the future holds.
“I’ll miss Coach Weiss. We had a good relationship and we’re sad to see him leave but it’s an exciting time for Philippine football," said Phil Younghusband during the ceremonial launch of the Gatorade-Chelsea Football pitch at the sprawling Circuit Makati sports and entertainment complex.
"It’s a big year and we’re excited to see the new coach and how he works but we are very sad to see coach Michael Weiss go," the Azkals strike star added.
They Said It!
“I’ll miss Coach Weiss. We had a good relationship and we’re sad to see him leave but it’s an exciting time for Philippine football." - Azkal striker Phil Younghusband
The English-Filipino footballer said he has “no idea” who will replace Weiss but expects a replacement to be named by next month.
Younghusband said he learned a lot from the German mentor, particularly the importance of fitness and conditioning. “It doesn’t matter how talented you are or your technical ability, kailangan in condition, kailangan (ang) fitness and that’s one of the big things I learned from Coach Weiss.”
Under his watch, Weiss steered the Azkals to their best tournament records and rise in the world rankings. His departure comes at a time when the Azkals are set to begin preparations for the AFC Challenge Cup in Maldives in May and the AFF Suzuki Cup in Singapore and Vietnam come November.
The 26-year old striker, who wishes Weiss the best of luck, said he hasn’t talked to his former coach after the announcement but will give him a message.
He described his relationship with his former coach as “very good,” both in personal and professional terms, despite an episode in 2012 where he and younger brother James were snubbed for selection in the team for the Philippine Peace Cup.
“A lot of it was miscommunication and that happens a lot but that was in the past and we fixed that. There’s no hard feelings in either side,” Younghusband said.
Considered as one of the Azkal’s most popular players, Younghusband admits he is unsure of the timing and the nature of the decision not to move forward with Weiss.
“I don’t know. We need to prove ourselves again to the new coach. But for the players who aren’t on the team for the moment it’s good for them now they have the chance to get back on the team and that’s good for the team because it creates competition,” he said.
“This is a big year in Philippine football, especially the Challenge Cup - if we win pumasok tayo sa Asian Cup and that would be the first time in Philippine history with teams like Japan and South Korea.”
He said there is an atmosphere of “mixed emotions” based on his talks with some of his teammates during Azkal clinics. “Sometimes sad, sometimes excited. Different players, different emotions”.
The Azkals are tentatively scheduled to assemble next week.
Asked on what kind of coach he thinks the Azkals need to get them over the hump, Younghusband answered, “Sana a hungry coach. Siguro new school. Eager to learn and alam niya how to coach in Asia and in the Philippines. And dapat kailangan niya maintindihan ang Philippine football and the Philippine culture.”
For his part as a player, Younghusband said he would need to prove himself once more for what lies ahead.
“We need to prove ourselves - whether me, James, Chieffy (Caligdong) or whether you’re a player who’s never played in the Philippine national team - we’re all on the same level now and if the coach thinks there are other players better than myself then I have to work harder so I think it’s a great opportunity for everyone who thinks they can play for the national team,” he said.
He also welcomes the chance to play once more with players such as Anton del Rosario who was left off the Azkals due differences with Weiss.
Yeah, they’re my friends as well (and) not just good teammates. They’re a big part of Philippine football and sana mabalik sila sa Philippine team," Younghusband said.